Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood

Overview

Frances Marion was Hollywood's highest paid screenwriter - male or female - for almost three decades. She was the first woman to twice win an Academy Award for screenwriting. From 1916 to 1946 she wrote over two hundred scripts covering every conceivable genre for stars such as Mary Pickford, Gary Cooper, Greta Garbo, Marion Davies, Rudolph Valentino, Clark Gable, Marion Davies, Rudolph Valentino, Clark Gable, and Marie Dressler. Irving Thalberg "adored her and trusted her completely," William Randolph Hearst ...
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Overview

Frances Marion was Hollywood's highest paid screenwriter - male or female - for almost three decades. She was the first woman to twice win an Academy Award for screenwriting. From 1916 to 1946 she wrote over two hundred scripts covering every conceivable genre for stars such as Mary Pickford, Gary Cooper, Greta Garbo, Marion Davies, Rudolph Valentino, Clark Gable, Marion Davies, Rudolph Valentino, Clark Gable, and Marie Dressler. Irving Thalberg "adored her and trusted her completely," William Randolph Hearst named her for the head of west coast production for his Cosmopolitan studios, and in 1928, Sam Goldwyn raised her salary to an unparalleled $3,000 a week. Her stories were directed by George Cukor, John Ford, Alan Dwan, and King Vidor, and she went on to direct and produce a dozen films on her own. On top of all this, she painted, sculpted, spoke several languages fluently, and played "concert caliber" piano. Though she married four times, had two sons, and a dozen lovers, Frances's life story is mostly the story of her female friendships. As talented, successful, and prolific as Frances Marion was, these relationships were as legendary as her scripts. Without Lying Down is an eminently readable and meticulously documented portrait of a previously hidden era that was arguably one of the most creative and supportive for women in American history.
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Editorial Reviews

Lynda Obst
I felt an almost subversive thrill reading about Frances Marion. . . Cari Beauchamp lovingly reveals the women who climbed to the very top of the Hollywood hierarchy in this richly researched excavation of complex lives. It is a revelation.
New York Times Book Review
Wendy Smith
An impressively innovative work. . . . Solidly researched, thoughtfully argued, imbued with affection and respect for the women it profiles, this is a fine addition to the small shelf of movie books that actually have something to say.
Washington Post Book World
Jeanine Basinger
[Marion's] story is an astonishing mini-history of the twentieth century. . . [She] knew everyone from Jack London to Irving Thalberg to William Randolph Hearst.
Los Angeles Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Beauchamp seems betwixt and between. Is this a biography of Frances Marion (1888-1973), one of Hollywood's most prolific screenwriters, or a study of women in the early film industry? For the former, there is disappointingly little character analysis or, for that matter, information about Marion's non-film careers, such as journalism (she was one of the first female war correspondents). For the latter, there is little sociological or economic inquiry. Instead, Beauchamp's narrative of Marion's life is heavy on gossip, with as much about her famous friends-Mary Pickford, Louis B. Mayer and William Randolph Hearst, among others-as about her. Although the writer of such well-known screenplays as Stella Dallas and Dinner at Eight, Marion remains relatively unknown, a state of affairs not helped by the fact that she was frustratingly private, as Beauchamp admits in her notes. Beauchamp demonstrates how Marion's career as a screenwriter known for her clever plots and astute literary adaptations (Anna Christie, Camille) evolved with a changing Hollywood. She shows Marion's adjustments to market demands: from the silents to the experiment of the talkies to the squeaky-clean films demanded by the Hays Commission and the growing business of film promotion and distribution. Beauchamp's focus is the considerable emotional and professional support that Marion and her celebrated female friends offered each other. Beauchamp's portrait of Marion seems to reflect someone perfect, hardly human: "Frances was a raving beauty and she was also very happily married and immensely successful and innovative in her work." As a result, by book's end readers will have absorbed a lot of PG-rated tidbits about the wealthy in Hollywood but won't know Marion in any real psychological depth. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Film journalist Beauchamp's book is aptly subtitled, for this is not only about the pioneering screenwriter Frances Marion, whose credits range from silent classics to Garbo's first "talkie" to sophisticated comedy. This is also the story of the women with whom Marion worked, who creatively and symbiotically sustained one another. Chronicled here are her intimate working relationships with Mary Pickford, Marie Dressler, and Irving Thalberg; her qualified disdain of Louis B. Mayer and Joseph P. Kennedy; and her marriages, especially to cowboy film star Fred Thomson. Occupying the margins-but rarely marginalized-Marion cultivated power that often translated into casting decisions and salary negotiations on her own terms. She made the transition from silents to sound motion pictures and likewise survived the industry's swing from early respect for the director's vision to a later reverence for bottomline returns. To dub Beauchamp's work "revisionist" is inadequate: this is a welcomed rediscovery. For all film collections and larger public libraries.-Jayne Kate Plymale-Jackson, Univ. of Georgia Lib., Athens
Kirkus Reviews
A biography of the highest-paid female scriptwriter in Hollywood becomes an exploration of the work and sustaining friendships of the leading women of early cinema.

Until now Frances Marion has been largely absent from the screenwriters' pantheon, despite a five-decade career that yielded 325 scripts, many for top films (The Champ, Son of the Sheik, Dinner at Eight). Seasoned film reporter Beauchamp (coauthor, Hollywood on the Riviera, 1992) spends no time taking umbrage. Instead she jumps into Marion Benson Owens's two early marriages, a fateful encounter with Marie Dressler as a reporter for Hearst's San Francisco Examiner, and early days in Los Angeles, where she met lifetime friends Adela Rogers and Mary Pickford, and director Lois Weber, who renamed her Frances Marion. After her first scenario in 1915, an already crowded life became dizzying: It included stints with Famous Players, First National, and MGM, new friendships with Hedda Hopper and Anita Loos, and a happy and creatively fruitful marriage to 1920s western star Fred Thomson until his death in 1928. Beauchamp admirably marshals her research and writes with tempered prose. Still, when her subject is so well placed that she witnesses young George Gershwin playing a new piece called Rhapsody in Blue and introduces directors to a tall guy named Frank (later Gary) Cooper, it's hard not to become a little breathless. There's also a gossipy, epic quality that inspires page-turning: Will entertainment mogul Joseph Kennedy hurt Thomson's career? What will Marion do at MGM after her beloved friend Irving Thalberg dies? At the book's conclusion, what stands out are the friendships. As Marion says, " `Contrary to the assertion that women do all in their power to hinder one another's progress, I have found that it has always been one of my own sex who had given me a helping hand when I needed it.' "

A triumph of discovery in the often strip-mined quarry of film history.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684802138
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 2/4/1997
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 6.49 (w) x 9.59 (h) x 1.39 (d)

Meet the Author


Cari Beauchamp is the coauthor of Hollywood on the Riviera(1992).
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